Body Rank Order: Refinement to initial [y]

In my recent post about the new word structure I’ve called Body Rank Order I said that the rule for rank order wasn’t settled and may need further refinement. The rank order should either increase or stay constant from left to right, but I felt that “stay constant” was wrong and not elegant enough as a model. I noted that only a minority of words needed the “stay constant” part of the rule to be correct, and some of those words were unusual in other ways.

A good portion of the “stay constant” words are unusual because they occur mostly in the linestart position. Words starting [ych] and [ysh] are the two types which I wish to discuss in this post as they show the relevant patterns most strongly.

In the Body Rank Order model words beginning [ych] and [ysh] would be split into syllables in this way: [y] would be the first syllable body in the word with the next syllable starting [ch] or [sh]. Thus [ycheey] is composed of the syllable bodies [y] and [cheey] while [yshey] is composed of the syllable bodies [y] and [shey]. Some words, such as [ycheol], have a coda on the second syllable or, as with [yshedy], have three syllables.

The key point is that both [y] and any syllable starting with a bench [ch, sh] are in rank 1. Thus all words beginning [ych] or [ysh] have a body rank order which stays constant. There are 16 such words with four or more tokens in the Voynich text, and they total 182 tokens, or 35% of all “stay constant” exceptions to the model.

We know that both [y] and syllables starting with a bench [ch, sh] must be in rank 1 as they often occur before rank 2 syllables, such as those starting [k, t]. Neither can be placed into a different rank without causing greater exceptions.

The linestart phenomenon, where the first glyphs of words found at the linestart differ statistically from those in the rest of the text, adds to the problem. About 80% of words beginning [ych] and 90% of those starting [ysh] occur at the start of lines. Thus they are neither normal in their structure nor their distribution.

The solution comes from resolving both problems at once. Were [y] removed then the words would be both structurally normal and statistically normal in their distribution. Indeed, according to Transformation Theory this is the likely scenario: all words beginning [ych, ysh] originally began [ch, sh], and some unknown process added [y] to the start of some words beginning [ch, sh] which were at the start of a line.

It must be borne in mind that not all words beginning [ych, ysh] occur at the start of lines, nor that words beginning [ch, sh] are not found at the linestart. Simply that the environment for adding [y] was more prevalent in the linestart position, though could be absent and could be found elsewhere.

They key conclusion, however, is that the text of the Voynich manuscript must be “normalized” by removing the [y] from the start of words beginning [ych, ysh].

(It may be that other “normalization” is needed elsewhere, and that the difference between the “transformed” text and the “normal” text is hindering decipherment efforts.)

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